Campus News Georgia Impact

Institute of Government study shows civic engagement low in Georgia communities

A new report reveals that Georgia communities exhibit lower levels of civic engagement than the national average. The Georgia Civic Health Index, prepared by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in collaboration with GeorgiaForward, the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, the National Conference on Citizenship and a number of community foundations, presents the results of a study that measured the degree to which citizens participate in their communities.

The project sought to examine how the state’s residents participate in civic life-be it through voting, volunteering or interacting with family and friends-and what that means for Georgia. Similar reports have been collected under the aegis of the National Conference of Citizenship in 20 other states since 2006.

Georgia exhibits some of the lowest rates of civic engagement in the country, particularly in the millennial generation, or people born between 1981 and 2004. The state is about average in civic health indicators such as family and neighborhood interactions, but it is below the national average in measures like attending public meetings and voter turnout.

Though Georgia ranks low on many indicators of civic health, findings in the report raise questions that should arouse fresh discussion about ways to increase voter participation, volunteerism and political awareness, according to W. Dennis Epps, deputy director of the Vinson Institute.

“I think that our local governments and our state government will take a look at the Georgia Civic Health Index and work on how we can do a better job of engaging citizens,” Epps said.

The results of the study establish a benchmark for civic participation that government and community leaders can use to find ways of encouraging more engagement and measure progress over time. The consortium that produced the report plans to conduct annual citizen engagement analyses over the next several years to record improvements in participation, according to Amir Farokhi, executive director of GeorgiaForward.